Breathed, creator of the popular ""Bloom County"" comic strip, writes of the transformation of a sour-faced little boy (Breathed's father) during the Depression. In 1939, Red Breathed is a nine-year-old cynic who has been disappointed too many times by the adults in his life to take them seriously. When he meets a retired, aging Santa Claus, he has no expectations. But Santa gains Red's conditional trust with a small miracle only to fail him in a big one -- getting Red an Official Buck Tweed Two-Speed Crime-Stopper Star-Hopper bicycle. When he doesn't find his bicycle on Christmas morning, Red goes to bawl out Santa but finds that he can't disappoint the old man by telling him the truth. He ends up comforting him instead, and when Red goes home he discovers that Santa had come through for him -- in a way -- after all. Breathed's drawings are at their comic best. If the final plot twist hinges on a bad pun, all is forgiven after the last surprise picture.